How to Get Up and Running with SQL – A List of Free Learning Resources

We have compiled a list of the top free resources to help new data practitioners learn SQL. These include free online courses and resources to get the most out of your SQL skills.

How to get up and running with SQL - a list of free learning resources
Vector by storyset on Freepik


Considering you clicked on this article, I think it’s safe to say that you are either just starting your data journey or looking for ways to enhance your SQL skills! Well, you have come to the right place, and I won’t disappoint! In this article, you will get a brief background of SQL, including how & why it has become popular and some of the best free courses/resources I have found to start and continue enhancing your SQL skills! 


Why do you need to learn SQL? and the best way to proceed


Since the 1970s, when two IBM researchers, Raymond Boyce and Donald Chamberlin, developed a new coding language, the data industry has relied heavily on SQL to effectively query and transform data. This became more apparent once data teams started transferring their storage and computing over to cloud web servers.

With these changes, it became ever more important for anyone working on the analytics side of data to master this language. There is plenty of noise on the internet about different cheat sheets offering the most basic SQL transforms. Leaning on my years of experience as a data analyst and data scientist, I can tell you that very few of these end up helping you in the long run. There are truly only two ways to operate effectively with SQL - learn the basics and then either continue building your skills or (the more popular) leverage other tools to enhance productivity, with the sweet spot being a mixture of both!


Top Free Intro Courses


Udemy SQL Course


Leading Free Course

Udemy is an online learning and teaching marketplace with over 204,000 courses and 54 million students. The above link is a well-rounded course with a 4.5 rating and over 450,000 students have already gone through the course! Additionally, this course requires no prerequisites. 

All SQL Courses (paid)




List of SQL How-Tos 

PopSQL is a modern-day SQL editor. It allows you to collaborate with colleagues and friends to write the correct SQL queries. With such a strong foundation in the concept, it only makes sense that they would have good resources for people to learn SQL. Additionally, this resource breaks up the different syntaxes so that you only have to work with the program you want to. I recommend using this once you better understand the different transforms you are trying to run.


SQL Tutorial

W3Schools is one of the largest web development sites. It contains numerous courses on a plethora of different coding languages. Their SQL Tutorial will teach you MySQL, SQL Server, MS Access, Oracle, Sybase, Informix, Postgres, and some other database systems. The nice part about this tutorial is they have plenty of examples and quizzes for you to test your knowledge! Additionally, they offer SQL References where you can find different keywords and functions. This tutorial will give you a certificate to prove that you have achieved a basic understanding of SQL. 


Khan Academy


Intro to SQL: Querying and managing data

Khan Academy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and like all of the different resources listed above, it’s completely free. This is a beginner's course where you will learn how to use SQL to store, query, and manipulate data in relational databases. This course offers you several videos, engaging challenges, and end-of-session quizzes to test your knowledge. Although this requires a little more self-learning than some of the other resources listed above it is still an incredible resource for anyone looking to learn or practice their SQL Skills. 


What now?


Now that you have completed an intro course to SQL and have a basic understanding of how queries are structured and the different transforms that are being offered, you are at a crossroads. You should have an understanding of what you are trying to achieve and how to achieve it but don’t have the time to search through Stackoverflow or Google to round out the corners of those specific queries. This is where you should find different tools to help you save time and operate more efficiently. Below are two of my favorite resources I recommend to any new or aspiring SQL user. These resources are being pulled from an article I recently published titled The Top 5 Bookmarks Every Data Analyst Should Have


Code Beautify


SQL Formatter

There are a number of different SQL formatters out there on the internet, but this is the one that I use and enjoy. This tool is perfect for you and your colleagues as you will no longer need to dig through extensive queries to find the transform that is trying to be run; SQL Formatter will instantly format the query in a structured way that is easier for both you and your colleague to follow. 

In its essence the beautifier will take this:

And turn it into this!




Free SQL Generator

Even the most experienced SQL developers struggle to remember all of the required syntaxes for various transformations. In response to this, many SQL users spend copious amounts of time searching through past projects or different online resources, such as Stackoverflow and forums, looking for answers. For a data practitioner who is working at a data-informed business, saving time is almost as important as data quality.

I recommend using this SQL Generator - “A SQL Generator is basically a template for a SQL query, which lets you customize column names and table structure, choose the operation that you want to do, and then it constructs the syntax for you in a variety of different “flavors” of SQL.”

I found an instructional blog laying out how to use the SQL Generator here. Plus, It recently came to my attention that my secret is getting discovered; Suraj Gurav recently wrote a review on this SQL Generator with examples titled How To Write SQL Queries without Typing




SQL is one of the most important programming languages you should know when working with data and, more specifically, rotational databases. It may seem like a big lift when first confronting the coding language. Still, I hope with the above resources, you can gain a good baseline understanding of the language from the free courses and then amplify your knowledge/abilities with the other free resources!

Josh Berry (@Twitter) leads Customer Facing Data Science at Rasgo and has been in the data and analytics profession since 2008. Josh spent 10 years at Comcast where he built the data science team and was a key owner of the internally developed Comcast feature store - one of the first feature stores to hit the market. Following Comcast, Josh was a critical leader in building out Customer Facing Data Science at DataRobot. In his spare time, Josh performs complex analyses on interesting topics such as baseball, F1 racing, housing market predictions, and more.